Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has taken his brash, sometimes controversial style to his current role as U.S. ambassador to Japan. His recent critical remarks about Chinese President Xi Jinping have made waves across the Pacific and here in the United States, with Biden administration officials reportedly upset that Emanuel is undermining efforts at diplomacy with the United States’ largest global competitor.
In an exclusive interview with WTTW News, to air in full on Friday, Nov. 24, Emanuel doubled down on the rhetoric, taking aim at Jinping’s stewardship of the contracting Chinese economy.
“You’ve got a third of the youth in China unemployed,” Emanuel said. “There’s (a larger percentage of) unemployed youth in China than on the South Side or the West Side of Chicago, where we have a real challenge.”
Emanuel said China has had economic problems because it is refusing to work together with other nations.
“You have a massive fiscal problem in China, a massive housing problem in China, a massive problem in sense of the economy and sense of the growth pattern,” Emanuel said. “The moment Xi turned his back on the world economy, all these problems started cascading.”
Emanuel continued: “Their economic power has been shrinking because they turned their back on what I think President Biden correctly articulated, which is a rules-based system where we all work together.”
These comments follow posts on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Emanuel sent in September shedding light on the recent disappearance of top Chinese government officials.
“President Xi’s cabinet lineup is now resembling Agatha Christie’s novel And Then There Were None,” reads one of Emanuel’s posts. “First, Foreign Minister Qin Gang goes missing, then the Rocket Force commanders go missing, and now Defense Minister Li Shangfu hasn’t been seen in public for two weeks. Who’s going to win this unemployment race? China’s youth or Xi’s cabinet? #MysteryInBeijingBuilding.”
According to NBC News, the White House told Emanuel to stop taunting the Chinese president on social media. The report also states administration officials say China is furious over the posts. Emanuel told WTTW News that the Biden administration has never told him to back off.
“No, and it wouldn’t have been effective,” Emanuel said, explaining why he posted about China on X. “You want to be a superpower? Which you are. You have a responsibility to the world, then. You can’t just have a defense minister go missing and you have 500 nuclear weapons. … What I did was raise the question: Where is the defense minister? Five weeks later they acknowledged he was no longer going to be the defense minister; they acknowledged a replacement.”
Emanuel said he doesn’t apologize for his comments.
“I didn’t talk tough, I talked honest.”
The full exclusive interview with Emanuel will air on “Week in Review” at 5:30 and 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24, on WTTW and our streaming platforms.